Wokingham Art Society
Demonstrations by David Hyde

Visit him at www.davidhyde.org.uk
"Acrylics & Landscape"
20 Nov 2007
"Acrylic Wildlife"
19 April 2011
"Acrylic Razorbills"
18 March 2014
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"Razorbills" in Acrylic, 18 March 2014
It hardly seemed like three years since we last enjoyed a demo by David Hyde. As before, he had a drawing of his subject: this time a couple of razorbills, sitting on a rock, traced onto 2mm gessoed MDF board,. We had been expecting "animals" but birds are animals, and feathers and fur need the same painting techniques - so that was OK.

A dead flat blue sky had also been painted with a 4" B&Q paint roller . How did he paint so accurately around the birds? Frisk low-tack adhesive masking film is the answer, much better than masking fluid on smooth paper like this. You can still get it from the SAA.
Back in 2011 he was enthusiastic about Atelier Interactive acrylics but he's now found that the old fashioned, faster-drying, Liquitex Soft Body ones suit him better. He uses acrylics like watercolour: thin layers put on with fairly small (00 to 6 or 7) synthetic brushes, preferably by Galleria. Only for fast application will he use bristle.

The birds are dark brown, so David put just dark brown (burnt umber) onto his palette, an old china plate (they clean easily). He watered it down a little, so that the brush strokes already hinted at the texture of the feathers. The same colour went all over, except that he left the pencil marks showing and put more paint on in the darkest areas.
There were gasps of amazement as he mixed a little burnt umber with ultramarine and painted it, only slightly thinned, uniformly over the white feathered area.

Concentrating on getting darks and lights before bothering with colour, he then started with white. Much acrylic is opaque but becomes translucent if you thin it with water - brush stokes show. If you lighten dark paint with white that too will become opaque. Make sure you know what you want - here he was watering his white.

The translucent white first just lightened whole areas. He used a finger to spread it if it was too light or had a hard edge, especially where sunlight fell on brown feathers
As the work progressed, smaller and smaller marks were made in both white and dark areas. He allowed time for drying before each area was revisited. Darker shadows (Payne's grey and raw umber?) also showed where one set of feathers were covered by another. The hand moves most easily diagonally, so don't be afraid to turn the board to make the easy brush-strokes align with the feathers.

David kept circulating around, touching in more bits of shadow and light. "You need a whole afternoon and a bottle of wine for this."

It was coffee time before David started seriously thinking about colour.
First he wanted to warm things up. This needed a very thin glaze of cadmium orange, thinned with medium, not water. Then he added strips of blue to the brown. To get the eye colour right he painted it white (to kill any brown that might have shown through) and then over-painted it in several phases: shadow from above, a reflection of the sun. Only when he had done all that time allowed on the birds did he get out a tube of titanium white for the absolutely brightest bit of breast and, sparingly, for a few other highlights.

In the last few minutes of the demo he roughed in the rocks ("You can spend days there, too"). No two are the same. He started with cadmium orange, thinned with medium, and as he progressed added more Payne's grey and in other places a little white.
There were too many interesting snippets of advice to record, but you should at least remember:

If you want very transparent acrylic glazes, thin with an acrylic medium. Water is OK only as long as you don't use too much.

For most purposes, white acrylic gesso is equally effective and much cheaper than "proper" acrylic white.

Dark makes adjacent mid-tone look lighter. Light makes adjacent mid-tone look darker.

So ended another interested evening - so much so that one of the audience was so keen to try to use David's technique that he wanted copies of my original photos immediately, rather than waiting for this write-up. Thank you, David

Earlier original. "Proper" painting, not time-limited demo.
"Acrylics & Landscape"
20 Nov 2007
"Acrylic Wildlife"
19 April 2011
"Acrylic Razorbills"
18 March 2014
Return to Archive

"Acrylic Wildlife", 19 April 2011
David was working tonight in Atelier Interactive Acrylics. The canvas already had pencil outlines of an oystercatcher, a few rocks and corresponding watery reflections and shadows. So the composition had already been sorted.

But first he described Interactive Acrylics' slow drying and rehydration qualities and the useful fact that the tubes are labeled as opaque, semi-opaque and transparent. This last point helps no end with his style of painting. He used to work in watercolour and likes to use multiple glazes. He spoke of doing as many as 60 or 70 layers on a "proper" painting, so it is important to use only transparent colours for the later glazes. He uses water, not a medium, to thin his paint. China or glass plates serve as palettes.

The canvas had been primed with two coats of Liquitex white gesso. Incidentally, because gesso is so much cheaper and quite as effective a mixer as Titanium White he reserves the "proper" white for occasional vivid flashes.
He put out a little Cerulean, some Yellow Ochre and white gesso (all opaque) and started painting the foreground water with a 1" flat bristle brush. The paint should be "Not too wet and not too dry" so David had little water in the brush. I was surprised at how carefully he observed the pencil lines.

He worked the sea from bottom to top, using increasing amounts of the blue and the white. "The brain relates such changes of tone to distance, especially if they are exaggerated". David almost implied that the nature of the change was not so very important. It doesn't show up well in the photo because the lighting was brighter on the right of the picture.

He went back to put a bit of texture into the foreground but warned us against fiddling.

That was the end of the sea (for now!) so the brush was washed, a fresh plate/palette picked up and one softer flat and a smaller round brush chosen.
The petrel is a black and white bird so it was not surprising that David mixed up some (semi-opaque) French Ultra and Burnt Sienna (no white) for the top half. Less expected was that he under-painted what would become the white area with a similar, somewhat more blue, mix (and a slightly wetter brush).

Now he was following his pencil lines even more carefully, often turning the canvas round so that brush strokes could go from left to right (he's right-handed) with the brush always just under the line, painting up to it.

The paint had to dry before the next glaze could go on. So in the meantime he carefully under-painted the red beak and legs with Cadmium Yellow - a small brush pulled carefully left-to-right along the top of the bill (not moving bristles sideways); turn canvas over; same again for the bottom; turn canvas 90 degrees and repeat for the legs. There was even time to under-paint the rocks with the flat brush. For these David used the same Ultra and Sienna "bird" mix, but with more white, sienna and water for the more-distant rock. Brush marks created rock shapes.
Then started the "secret" technique.

Using a small brush and very wet white gesso David started stroking tiny marks over the white underparts of the bird, in the direction of the feathers. The sunlit black parts are shiny, so white was put in there, too.

This was repeated several times ("give each coat time to dry"), not making the marks in the same places. He had only minutes to do what would normally be an afternoon's work, but the effect was still remarkable.
David used black for the eye, for the centre of the bill and for some of the darker bits of feather.

Whilst glazes dried, he put Cadmium Red over the yellow under-painted bits and into the eye.

These two photos were taken to show how he kept working through the coffee-break - despite the chit-chat with curious members.

Some of the harsher marks were softened. Subtle lighting was added to the beak. More of the lighter colour was brought into the nearer rocks.
For subsequent glazes he needed to get even more transparent, both in terms of choice of paint and the amount of water. "Pthalo blue, red shade" is more transparent than Ultramarine. The more water you use the more transparent it dries back. So he lightened the blue with white gesso (zinc mixing-white might have been better, but . . . ) and glazed this thin mixture over several parts of the bird.

Black was blended carefully under the beak and where there were shadows, before he selectively went in with a slightly reddened version of the blue glaze. This routine continued. A glaze was left to dry, followed by more little dabs of watery/feathery white, more highlights and darks, more drying, another glaze and so on. Burnt Sienna shadows went onto the red, and even some tiny touches of your actual Titanium White (see the eye, below).

In the final minutes the water surface was livened up with a mix of transparent Alizarin, Pthalo Blue and Pthalo Green. Some dark shadows, following the original brush marks, were put back into the rocks and finally Burnt Umber was very rapidly dry-brushed into the shadow and mud areas.
Again, this was an enjoyable and stimulating evening, full of insight into how a watercolourist can move to acrylic.
I find myself wondering if David's thin acrylic glazes could rescue some of my failed watercolours! Heresy?

"I suppose we'll all be trying to paint birds now", I overheard afterwards.

End of demo

"Acrylics & Landscape"
20 Nov 2007
"Acrylic Wildlife"
19 April 2011
"Acrylic Razorbills"
18 March 2014
Return to Archive

Acrylics & Landscape, 20 Nov 2007
David Hyde was a watercolourist originally, moving subsequently to acrylics and oils. He likened acrylic to watercolour in that both dry quickly and can be used as glazes. He painted a farmyard scene, one from his imagination that he hadn’t tried before, with outbuildings on either side of the picture, leading to the farmhouse beyond the yard.

He used 2mm MDF board primed with Liquitex Gesso. Matt varnish is applied afterwards; his paintings are always mounted and glass-framed. He suggested the following colours for landscapes:
Burnt sienna,
Raw sienna,
Ultramarine blue,
Cobalt blue,
Two yellows,
Titanium white and crimson.
Make bright red by adding crimson to yellow.

David outlined all the buildings, using thin, watered down, blue acrylic to establish the composition. Balance is vital, as in still life. Composition and tone are everything. Once dry, acrylic is permanent. Decide what to leave in and what to leave out. Light and distance are more important than colour.
He established the light area with a very pale cream mix. He added ultramarine blue to tone it down for distance. Shadow areas were initially painted in pale purple. The sunny farmyard reflects light, so there’s no need to make the shadows too dark. For the distance building, ochre and white pushed the roof away. The cobalt blue sky complemented it.

To grey a colour, use a complementary one. Don’t fiddle. Try to get the right tone first go. Establish sun and shade, using opposite colours. Shadows are softer further back. A loose mix of three colours shows all three colours when applied, makes it more interesting and saves doing so much detail. For trees, add red to green for a more convincing colour.

Try to make the focal point brighter and funnel the eye to it with use of colour, darker further away, getting brighter at the centre. Add texture with layers of paint. David found it best to stand up when using acrylic and as far away from the easel as possible. A dark muck heap and posts were added to separate the light building wall from the sunlit yard. The building in shadow was lightened with white to keep it murky. He merged the bottom of the shadowy building with the adjacent yard – lost and found. A stone colour was mixed with white first, adding yellow, red and green for the bright yard. More shadow was added on the left hand side to balance the composition.

By popular demand, chickens were added as a final touch, using burnt sienna and ultramarine blue, tiny at the back and bigger at the front, all with shadows.

The result was a lively and appealing painting with little detail, but lots of texture and tone.

Madeline Hawes

"Acrylics & Landscape"
20 Nov 2007
"Acrylic Wildlife"
19 April 2011
"Acrylic Razorbills"
18 March 2014
Return to Archive

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This document is maintained by Sam Dauncey